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TOWNSHEND — A new event will be making its debut this weekend with the goal of raising money, giving back to the community, and carrying on the legacy of Joshua Druke.

Return of the Rebels, the Joshua Druke Memorial Alumni Game, will be held at Leland & Gray on Saturday with any proceeds going to the Josh Druke Foundation, which was formed last summer.

Druke attended Leland & Gray Union High School and was a member of the basketball team until he graduated in 2003.

“On behalf of Leland & Gray we wanted to do this to not only honor Josh, but to honor the foundation,” said Leland & Gray Athletic Director Tammy Claussen. “They wanted to give back to one of his loves, which was basketball from an early age. One of the first purchases that they made was to buy our boys varsity basketball team new uniforms this year, so we wanted to help the foundation out in thanking them for doing that for us and to also honor Josh through this alumni game.”

Druke died following a farm equipment accident in October of 2021. The following year, family and friends organized the Josh Druke Memorial 5K that was held on Saturday, Sept, 3, 2022, in Walpole, N.H. Though not the intent, the event became the genesis of The Joshua Druke Foundation.

“We kind of quickly realized that we needed to have something like the foundation in place to make the race go smoothly and then to continue the legacy of Josh beyond the race,” said Andrea Vickers-Sivret, a close friend of Josh and Jamie Druke and a member of the foundation. “He did so much and we just wanted to make sure that his values were continued in whatever we did and forming the foundation helped to ensure that whatever we do will follow what was most important to him.”

Planning of the game began sometime between December of 2022 and January of this year with coordination occurring with members of the family. When organizers met, Claussen said there was one thing that was most important.

“We’ve been trying to make sure that we could bring back some of the alumni who had opportunities to play here at Leland & Gray, but especially, specifically, around those years that Josh Druke was a player here and so that’s really exciting,” Claussen said.

The number of participants in this weekend’s game was capped at 24, and of those, Claussen said there are 11 who probably played with Druke at one point or another during his high school career.

In his junior year, Druke reached the milestone of scoring 1,000 points. He was joined later that season by his teammate Myles Felker, who is one of the participants playing in this weekend’s game.

“It’s pretty unique to get a 1,000 point scorer to begin with, but then to get two in the same season I think is really special,” Claussen said. “So, Myles will be coming back and of course his brother Ryan and some of Ryan’s classmates who also played with Josh will be here, so it’s going to be a great event.”

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Josh and Ryan played together in 2003, Josh’s senior year. That year, the team made it to the state championship game.

The coaches chosen to take place in the game are significant as well. Josh’s father, Ed Druke, will be one of the coaches on the sidelines as will Josh’s father in-law Pat Crotty. In addition, Leland & Gray principal Bob Thibault, who coached Josh when he was a player, will also be one of the coaches.

While it is unclear at this point whether or not the event will continue next year, Claussen said she hopes the alumni game becomes an annual event.

The second annual Josh Druke Memorial 5K has already been scheduled for Sept. 23 of this year, Vickers-Sivret said. It is one of the events she said the foundation plans to hold annually because of the impact that it had in its first year.

“The 5K was so successful because of his connection to the community,” said Vickers-Sivret. “It was really the first time that everybody was able to get together after his passing and it was just such a beautiful day. It was really nice and the one feedback that we got immediately was just that everybody hoped that we continued it.”

The mission of the Joshua Druke Foundation is to support individuals and organizations who reflect the priorities seen in Josh’s life. The vision of the foundation is to create a community space dedicated to Josh’s memory where many different individuals and organizations can gather and grow. Distributions from the foundation will be support family centered activities, youth sports, local community development and discipleship to Jesus Christ, according to .

Two examples of donations made by the foundation were to Christmas at the Colonial, which took place in December of 2022, and the purchase of the new uniforms for the Leland & Gray boys basketball team.

“The purchase of the uniforms was really a perfect jumping (off) point for the foundation that really encapsulated what meant so much to Josh,” said Vickers-Sivret. “Sports was definitely one of Josh’s big loves. He coached and played and was very involved in that way, but he was very involved in his church as well.”

Josh’s wife, Jamie Druke, said on a personal level it was important for the family to have something positive and tangible to work towards coming out of the tragedy that would help others, carry on Josh’s legacy, and embody his spirit.

“I think that being able to do this and having the foundation able to help other people will help him to live on in that way because he was always noticing people; interacting with people. I was just surprised by how many people in town that I say ‘hi’ to but that’s about it, that he actually stopped and talked to and got to know,” said Jamie Druke. “He was always the sort of person you could call if you were in a ditch to pull you out or that sort of thing. (There were) just so many people afterwards, that I didn’t realize he meant so much to. (It’s important) just being able to continue that; that sort of legacy of touching people’s lives and being a positive influence.”